Cooley, LuAnn C.
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The purpose of this study was to examine how women learn the culture of a highly authoritarian, patriarchal church. The research questions guiding this study were as follows: 1) What is the process of learning the culture of the International Church of Christ? 2) How are women’s identities affected through their church membership? A qualitative study was conducted, collecting data using interviews, participant observation, documents, and field notes. Purposive sampling was used to initially identify eleven mid-life women for face-to-face interviews. Data analysis used the constant comparative method to uncover emerging commonalities and themes among the participants. Validity was ensured through using multiple sources: interviewing, participant observation, and document analysis. Reliability was assured through triangulation and maintaining a detailed and comprehensive account of the research process. Because of my feminist outlook and concern with representation, every effort was given to ensure an unbiased account and a fair representation of these women. Analysis of the data revealed the following themes: 1) Women learned the culture of the International Church of Christ through a process of readiness and desire to have a relationship with God, initial contact and accepting the Bible as an authority, commitment, and participating in activities. 2) The women changed in response to what they learned about being a disciple of the church and in response to what they learned about being a woman in the church. Four major conclusions were drawn from the findings of this study. First, desire and authority define the boundaries of the learning event. Second, deliberate participation in core activities anchor an individual in the group identity. Third, women construct their identity through social interaction, in response to social isolation and from others moderating access to power. Fourth, the practice of the theology of submission constructs a conflictual identity.